A Lone Parent, but Not Alone

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"When my children come home and give me a hug and tell me that they love me, that's the best part of being a mother."—Maria, A SINGLE MOTHER OF TWO.

SINGLE parents can find reassurance in the Bible statement: "Children are a blessing and a gift from the LORD." (Psalm 127:3, Contemporary English Version) When children are raised in a single-parent family, they are no less precious in God's eyes. Our Creator desires to see single-parent families succeed. The Bible says of him: "The fatherless boy and the widow he relieves." (Psalm 146:9) Single parents can be certain that God is ready to support them.

A child is entitled to be raised in a loving, safe, and secure environment that will allow him to develop physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is each parent's duty and privilege to be used by God to train a child.

Many single parents have found that success requires diligent prayer, consistent application of Bible principles, and complete reliance on Jehovah. This is in line with the exhortation found at Psalm 55:22: "Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you."

From time to time, grandparents, local elders, and experienced parents in the Christian congregation may be available to assist a single-parent family to manage trying situations. True, family members and fellow worshipers can offer much to support the efforts of single parents, but the ultimate God-given responsibility rests with a child's parents.*

Happily, many single parents have managed successfully to handle the unique challenges of their situation and raise responsible, well-behaved, God-fearing children. Awake! spoke with a number of them. Here are some of the things such parents have in common.

* Sound home management. Successful single parents strive to be well organized and work hard to coordinate schedules. Proper planning and organization are essential. The Bible says: "The plans of the diligent one surely make for advantage."—Proverbs 21:5.
* Commitment. Successful single parents make family life one of their first priorities. They focus on putting the needs of their children ahead of their own.—1 Timothy 5:8.
* A balanced approach. Successful single parents neither minimize nor exaggerate problems; they seek solutions. They accept the difficulties and try to cope with them without self-pity or bitterness.
* Good communication. Successful single parents foster communication. They encourage clear and open expression of thoughts and feelings in the family. Says a single father about his children: "I talk to them at every opportunity. We have ‘cozy moments' when we prepare dinner. It is then that they really confide in me."
* Caring for oneself. Despite the demands on their time, successful single parents recognize that caring for their own spiritual, emotional, and physical needs is important. Ethel, a divorced single mother of two, explained: "I try to save some time for myself. For example, when a friend gives the children music lessons, that gives me an hour to myself. I sit down and leave the TV off."
* A positive attitude. Successful single parents maintain a positive outlook toward parenting and life in general. They see positive aspects in stressful situations. One single mother states: "I've come to realize that being a single parent is not all negative."

Gloria with her children

Family Bible study has helped Gloria's three children to become full-time Christian ministers. Here they look at a letter from and a photo of the oldest son, now serving as a missionary

Success Stories

Are these principles effective? Yes, as can be seen from numerous success stories of single parents. Gloria, a divorced, single working mother in England, who was mentioned in the first article, raised two sons and a daughter. All three of them grew up to become full-time Christian ministers, devoting their lives to promoting Bible education. When asked how she managed, Gloria explained: "The first challenge was to keep up a regular, interesting family Bible study. I wanted the children to be happy, to have peace of mind, to be content, and to be protected from pitfalls. I found a job working nights. My aim was to have the children with me whenever I could. Before I went to work, we had a family prayer and I put them to bed. My aunt stayed in the house while I was at work."

How did Gloria help her children set the right priorities? She continues: "My greatest aim was to put spiritual things first. We didn't have much money, and I was very open about this with the children. Whatever I asked them to do, I would do myself, and they were all cooperative." Reminiscing about how she kept a close-knit family, Gloria says: "The secret was doing things together. Nobody went off to his or her own room. We cooked, cleaned, decorated together. We balanced our activities. I always made sure there was recreation too."
Carolyn and her son, Joseph

Carolyn and her son, Joseph

Carolyn, a single mother of a young boy named Joseph, is pleased with the way he is growing up. What is her secret? "We read the Bible together at bedtime," she says, "and then I ask him questions about what he has learned. Additionally, we consider selected paragraphs from Bible-based publications and apply them personally. This helps Joseph when he faces problems, such as bullying at school." Carolyn admits that her life is by no means easy, but she does not feel that she is alone. She observes: "It is a constant struggle, but I feel that Jehovah has really helped me. I also receive a lot of encouragement from the Christian congregation."

The success stories of thousands of single parents, such as Gloria and Carolyn, prove that parents today can rely on the time-tested principles of the Bible to raise fine, spiritually strong children. (Proverbs 22:6) Success is possible! Single parenting provides many challenges that are opportunities for growth and sharing. Relying fully on God and being convinced that he will provide help is the best way to cope with the demands of single parenthood.—Psalm 121:1-3.


SINGLE-PARENT families have become a permanent and noticeable feature in many societies today.* As the traditional structure of husband, wife, and children gives way to other forms of family life, demographers and sociologists in many parts of the world are asking why.

Sociology professors Simon Duncan and Rosalind Edwards note that "long-term changes are taking place in family patterns and gender relations." Why? Some observers state that this is the result of people's choices about how they live their lives, within a context of economic, cultural, and social change.

Let us consider some of these changes, as well as the choices being made. Pressures of life are a major factor affecting people's lives. The outside world intrudes on their every waking hour. Time formerly spent on family activities is now spent on the Internet, in front of the TV, on the phone, in the car, on the run.

Economic pressures also take a toll. Modern conveniences come at a cost, so more parents are working. Being part of a mobile society has led many family members to live and work far away from the support system of their extended family and in some cases even far away from their spouse. In many lands popular culture is not helping either, as it often focuses on tearing down institutions that provide a sense of stability, such as marriage and family.#
The New Single Mother

Today's single mother does not necessarily fit the old stereotype of an unwed teen living on welfare. Unwed motherhood has lost much of its stigma and has even been glamorized by celebrity role models. In addition, many women are better educated and better able to support themselves—so marriage is no longer a financial prerequisite to motherhood.
Some Definitions

Various terms are used around the world to describe mothers who raise children alone. In some countries "single mother" is used to refer to never-married mothers, while in other lands "lone mother" is a term that encompasses a whole range of mothers who are bringing up children without a male partner in their household. Such mothers may be divorced, separated, or widowed, or they may never have been married.

In this series of articles, we use the terms "single parent" and "single mother" to refer to parents raising children without a spouse.

Some single mothers, especially adult children of divorced parents, remain single because they do not want to make their offspring suffer the pain of watching a parent leave. Other women become single mothers as a result of abandonment, not by choice. "Lone parenthood is not generally a selfish and wilful choice," states the Joseph Rowntree Foundation of Britain, "and children in lone-parent families are not neglected and undisciplined."

Still, the prevalence of single-parent families is a matter of concern because single parents and their children may suffer emotional stress, economic need, and social disadvantages. Some people may wonder if it is possible for one parent to raise children successfully. What are some of the special challenges facing single-parent families? How can a Christian successfully meet the challenge of raising children as a single parent?

* Sociologists point out that the number of single mothers 'overwhelmingly outweighs the number of single fathers.' Hence, these articles deal primarily with single mothers. However, the principles discussed apply equally to single fathers.

# For a detailed discussion of the general challenges of motherhood, see "Motherhood—Does It Take a Superwoman?" in the April 8, 2002, issue of Awake!


United States: "The number of single mothers increased between 1970 and 2000, from 3 million to 10 million; over the same time frame, the number of single fathers increased also, from 393,000 to 2 million."—U.S. Census Bureau.

Mexico: According to the newspaper La Jornada, teenage mothers account for about 27 percent of the total number of pregnancies in the country.

Ireland: The rate of single-parent households increased from 5.7 percent in 1981 to 7.9 percent in 1991. "Marital breakdown remains a very important route into single motherhood."—Single Mothers in an International Context, 1997.

France: "Since the late 1970s, the proportion of single-parent families has increased by more than 50 per cent."—Single Mothers in an International Context, 1997.

Greece: "Since 1980, the number of unwed mothers in [Greece] has increased by 29.8 percent. And according to data provided by the European Union, in 1997 the percentage of children born out of wedlock was 3.3 percent, while in 1980 it was only 1.1 percent."—Ta Nea newspaper, Athens, September 4, 1998.

Britain: "The proportion of families headed by a single parent has topped 25 per cent for the first time, reflecting a huge growth in the number of never-married mothers and a significant rise in the divorce rate over the past 30 years."—The Times, London, March 2, 2000.

Germany: "The number of single parents has doubled in the past two decades. Nearly all single-parent families . . . are headed by the mother."—Single Mothers in an International Context, 1997.

Japan: 'Lone-mother families have been on the increase since the 1970's.' In 1997, 17 percent of all households were headed by single mothers.—Single Mothers in an International Context, 1997; The World's Women 2000: Trends and Statistics.

Australia: Nearly 1 in 4 children live with only one of their biological parents. This is usually the result of a breakdown in the parents' marriage or relationship. It has been projected that one-parent families will increase between 30 percent and 66 percent over a 25-year period.—Australian Bureau of Statistics.

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